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WHY Defend this guy? We KNOW he's guilty (Poll)
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WHY Defend this guy? We KNOW he's guilty (Poll)

Death penalty expert Clarke joins defense of Boston bomb suspect

(Reuters) - Prominent criminal defense lawyer Judy Clarke, who has represented defendants in some of the most high-profile death penalty cases in recent years, has joined the legal defense team for accused Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, according to court documents.

San Diego-based Clarke defended Jared Loughner, who pleaded guilty last year to an Arizona shooting rampage that wounded then-U.S. representative Gabrielle Giffords and was spared the death penalty.

Tsarnaev, 19, was captured on April 19 and has been recovering from bullet wounds at a prison medical center outside Boston. Prosecutors have charged him with using a weapon of mass destruction in connection with the Boston Marathon bombings that killed three and injured 264, an offense that can carry the death penalty.

Miriam Conrad, a public defender representing Tsarnaev, filed a request in Boston federal court last week asking U.S. Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler to appoint to his legal team Clarke and another lawyer. She cited a federal law that gives such defendants a right to "learned counsel," or lawyers with experience handling death penalty cases.

Bowler in an order on Monday agreed to appoint Clarke, who will join the three federal public defenders already assigned to Tsarnaev's case.

She rejected Tsarnaev's request to appoint a second death penalty expert, law professor David Bruck of Washington and Lee University, but said Tsarnaev could make the request again if indicted.

Clarke has had success in defending high-profile clients against the death penalty in the past. In exchange for pleading guilty last year to killing six people and wounding 13 others in an Arizona shooting spree, Loughner was spared the death penalty. Under the plea deal, he was sentenced in November to seven consecutive life terms plus 140 years in prison, without the possibility of parole.

Clarke's previous clients also include the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, the Atlanta Olympics bomber Eric Rudolph, and Susan Smith, the South Carolina woman who drowned her children in the mid-1990s.

The Boston case is USA v. Tsarnaev, U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, No. 13-2106.


Do you think this is about a lawyer getting their "15 minutes", or do you think they actually BELIEVE to a person's right to a fair trial?
It's about their "15 minutes"
The lawyer believes in a person's right to a fair trial
If they "win", the lawyer makes a name for themself
3 Members voted
1310633 tn?1430227691
I actually think it's both the "15 minutes" thing, AND the "name for themself" thing.

No way a defense lawyer takes a case like this, knowing their going to lose.

Or am I wrong? DO defense lawyers take cases, knowing full-well that they're going to lose, or do they ALWAYS think they can win?

I'm not a lawyer, so I've no clue how they think, nor their motivations for taking cases like this, where the evidence is so HEAVILY stacked against their client.
Avatar m tn
I think high profile cases often attract top notch attorneys but I don't think that fame or making a name for herself are the driving force here.

I think it's pretty simple in this case. Clarke strongly opposes the death penalty.

{...Clarke has rarely spoken publicly about her work and did not return a call seeking comment Monday. However, at a speech Friday at a legal conference in Los Angeles, she talked about how she had been “sucked into the black hole, the vortex” of death penalty cases 18 years ago when she represented Smith.

“I got a dose of understanding human behavior, and I learned what the death penalty does to us,” she said. “I don’t think it’s a secret that I oppose the death penalty.”}
Avatar m tn
I think a lawyer will represent someone in situations like this for numerous reasons like the ones listed, and then some.  Concerning the death penalty, some are steadfastly against it (like this lawyer is), I think some lawyers take cases like this because they feel that their client cannot get satisfactory representation otherwise. (Especially if its a lawyer who is past the ambulance chasing stage of their career and they do have some kind of a heart.)

Lawyers are a peculiar lot.
1310633 tn?1430227691
I hadn't looked at it that way... the attorney could be STRONGLY against the death-penalty, and that's the reasoning for taking the case.

Not necessarily to get the guy off completely, but to stop the death-penalty from being imposed.

I guess, if the trial goes forward, and he gets LIFE in a Fed prison, then she actually won the case (as he didn't get the death-penalty).

1530342 tn?1405020090
I agree with Mike. I read that article he posted the other day on yahoo.

However, I don't think it's right that he gets to sit in jail, eat, and get medical treatment if necessary (on our dime) after committing such a heinous crime. But then again, he won't be the first or last....
Avatar m tn
Tsarnaev's best defense: Judy Clarke, who keeps clients off death row

By Elizabeth Chuck, Staff Writer, NBC News

If he is convicted, the surviving Boston Marathon bombing suspect may be spared a trip to death row thanks to the addition of a criminal defense whiz — with a history of securing life sentences — to his legal team.

Judy Clarke joined Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's defense team on Monday. She has represented some of the most infamous American criminals in recent history: Jared Loughner, who killed six people and seriously wounded former U.S. congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in 2011; Susan Smith, the South Carolina mother who drowned her two children in 1994; Eric Rudolph, the who pleaded guilty to being the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bomber; Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber; and Zacarias Moussaoui, a convicted Sept. 11 conspirator.

All of those defendants were handed life sentences instead of the death penalty for their crimes. Now Tsarnaev's legal team hopes to keep Clarke's streak alive by having her join his case.

"It's no accident that she's the go-to defender in these kinds of cases," said Gerald H. Goldstein, a San Antonio-based defense lawyer and the former president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, who has known Clarke for about 30 years. "She makes people want to do the right thing, for the right reason. And that's a tough job."

The victim of a carjacking by Boston bombing suspects, a 26-year-old man known as Danny, talks to TODAY's Matt Lauer about the harrowing experience, saying the pair loaded explosives into his car before he was able to escape and call authorities.

Often, the "right thing" is for her defendants to acknowledge their crimes, avoid a jury trial and, most importantly, continue living.

"They're looking into the lens of life in prison in a box," she said at a legal conference in Los Angeles on Friday, The Associated Press reported. "Our job is to provide them with a reason to live."

She also offered a glimpse into what has drawn her into what she called the "black hole, the vortex" of death penalty cases since she first began working on them 18 years ago, when she represented Smith.

"I got a dose of understanding human behavior, and I learned what the death penalty does to us," she said. "I don't think it's a secret that I oppose the death penalty."

Clarke, 60, doesn't seek out big death-penalty cases; they find her, Goldstein said. Clarke rarely returns phone calls from reporters, and calls to her San Diego office went unanswered on Tuesday.

The addition of Clarke to Tsarnaev's team offers clues as to how the defense strategy may play out when the time comes.

"They are not going to put on a jihadi defense," Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz told the AP, adding that Clarke's presence shows "they are going to litigate hard against the death penalty."

"The client wants to live, and he wants to avoid the death penalty," Dershowitz said of the only surviving brother in the Boston Marathon bombings. "They are not going to say, 'I want to die, I want to join my brother.'"

Clarke has been in private practice in San Diego for years, working with her husband, law professor Thomas "Speedy" Rice, but she still takes public-defender assignments.

She is a native of Asheville, N.C., who grew up in a conservative Republican household, according to The New York Times. She got her undergrad degree from Furman University in South Carolina in 1974, followed by her law degree from the University of South Carolina in 1977. She moved cross-country to practice law the following year, and has spent most of her career in California and the Pacific Northwest.

"You're going to have a hard time finding somebody, even those that are her opponents, who doesn't respect her. Some people may not like her, but she commands respect," Goldstein said.

Clarke's skill in the courtroom lies in her ability to empathize with clients, even when they are being charged with horrific crimes, say colleagues.

"She's a genius. She's among the smartest, most thoughtful people you'll ever meet," said Todd Maybrown, a criminal defense attorney in Seattle who has known Clarke since the early 1990s. "She's very intense and cares very deeply about the law and her clients."

Added Goldstein: "She does as much in terms of humanizing the judge and the jury and the other lawyers as she does humanizing her clients. There's a reason people can identify with her."

Investigators have taken a DNA sample from the wife of slain suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev to compare with the female DNA discovered on the pressure cooker from one of the Boston bombs. The FBI is also examining whether or not Tamerlan Tsarnaev met with two men in Dagestan who are considered radical Muslims. NBC's Pete Williams reports.

Clarke's rise to prominence began when she defended Smith, who was on trial for drowning her two young children. A law school classmate of Clarke's, David Bruck, invited her to join the defense team.

Clarke and Bruck nearly crossed paths again: While Tsarnaev, the 19-year-old Boston bombing suspect, recovers from his bullet wounds in a prison hospital bed, his public defender, Miriam Conrad, asked a Boston federal court to appoint two death penalty experts to the case: Clarke and Bruck, who is now a law professor at Washington and Lee University, according to the AP.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler rejected the request to let Bruck join the team, but agreed to appoint Clarke, who will join the three federal public defenders already assigned to Tsarnaev's case.

Clarke has served as the head of federal public defenders offices in Idaho, eastern Washington and San Diego, served as president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and argued before the Supreme Court.

Clarke's experiences with her clients has led to her becoming an opponent of the death penalty, Bruck told The New York Times in 2011.

“Judy would probably say if the public saw everything she sees, it would look at the client or the case differently,” he said.
1530342 tn?1405020090
""She makes people want to do the right thing, for the right reason. And that's a tough job."

That respectable..Kudos to her cause I don't think I could do her job...
1310633 tn?1430227691
Whatever the case... this guy needs to FRY.
Avatar f tn
However, I don't think it's right that he gets to sit in jail, eat, and get medical treatment if necessary (on our dime) after committing such a heinous crime. But then again, he won't be the first or last....

He gets all those entitlements for simply committing a major crime! Seems to me that in itself is a major crime, especially when you consider the way families are rubbing two nickels together these days just to be able to provide these same things to their innocent, law abiding households eh? So we reward him by housing him and providing basic needs and medical care better than many of our law abiding citizens.... Now that makes some kind of sense doesnt it? I say fry him
Avatar m tn
James Holmes: Death Penalty Costs 3x More Than a Life Sentence

The prosecuting district attorney in the case of James Holmes, accused shooter in last year’s Aurora, Colorado, movie theater killings, made a mistake when he decided to pursue the death penalty instead of accepting the defendant’s guilty plea in exchange for life imprisonment without parole.

The reason, however unfortunate, is economic and not limited just to the case of the Aurora shootings. "Justice for all" completely loses its meaning when set alongside the pursuit of the death penalty.

Note the words "pursuit of" here. In Nevada, pursuit of the death penalty takes, on average, 1211 hours more time for public defenders per case than similar non-capital cases. Kansas spends roughly 70% more on each death penalty case, and Maryland spends nearly $3 million per case, or about 3 times what it costs to pursue non-capital convictions. California spends nearly $170 million per year under its current death penalty system, and could save an estimated $5 to $7 billion over the next fifty years if such sentences were reduced to life without parole.

The study of California’s death penalty system also suggests that in the same 50-year period, about 740 inmates will enter death row while only 14 will actually be executed. Nearly 500 prisoners on death row will die of old age or other causes before the state even has the chance to carry out the executions.

These stats paint a clear picture — Americans will spend billions of dollars pursuing the death penalty and taking up countless hours of overworked public defenders' and prosecutors' time to sentence prisoners to a death they may never even face. Meanwhile, murder cases will go unsolved, juveniles will fall through the cracks, prison infrastructure will crumble and the accused will be arraigned en masse without adequate representation. All this, not even to mention the positive things these billions could be spent on outside of the justice system in state budgets.

Senior Judge Charles Harris of the Fifth District Court of Appeal in Florida, in an opinion piece for the Gainesville Sun said "most people who support the death penalty believe it is more cost effective than life in prison. Perhaps at one time, when executions were swift and sure, this may have been the case. It is not now." Harris says that the slow justice system, the time required to prepare for trial, the numerous and complex appeals procedures, and many other factors actually make the costs of capital cases many times that of life imprisonment.

It’s not that slow justice is bad thing; being sure before carrying out the sentence is of paramount importance, which is why there are so many procedures assuring the fair treatment of those sentenced to death. The problem isn't the death sentence itself, it’s the numbers surrounding those sentences that hurt our communities — often far more than any one person ever could.

While James Holmes allegedly committed crimes that, I believe, would warrant a death sentence, the pursuit of the death sentence itself in any case is too costly to the public at large. Given this, there are two options — either we start to reserve the pursuit of the ultimate punishment for those who commit truly heinous crimes such as mass murder, or we eliminate the penalty entirely. Maybe Holmes' crimes do warrant the pursuit in this case, but since it seems pursuing capital punishment, in most cases, only provides justice to the few while foregoing justice for all, I think it’s time we abolish the death penalty.
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